Categories
Jazz/Blues Punk/Rock

Looking Back: More News From Nowhere – Nick Cave’s Homeric Ballad to his Many Muses

Nick Cave is a literary magpie, and even in appearance he reflects that of the spry ominous bird – all pale and dressed in black. His lyricism shows more than an understanding of the written word, but a playfulness that allows him to creatively bend the rules of telling a story. To me, no song in his archive reflects this better than ‘More News From Nowhere’ (from the legendary 2008 album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’) which blurs the line between melody and epic poetry. 

Nick Cave takes Homer’s Odyssey and plucks out the pieces of its imagery that sparkle most for him, most notably ‘I saw Miss Polly singing with some girls, I cried – struck me to the mast’. With the character of Miss Polly as PJ Harvey and her biography by James R. Blandford being titled ‘Siren Rising’, this is perhaps the easiest lyric to decipher. The Sirens in the Odyssey being one of the more famous parts of the tale, where Odysseus commands his men to tie him to the mast of their ship and to stuff their ears with wax, in order to avoid temptation and avert a deadly fate. To read further into this metaphor would be complete speculation, but we can safely say from all evidence that the connection between Cave and Harvey still retains a lot of power and poetry to this day. 

We are told that the character of ‘Betty X’ has hair ‘like the wine-dark sea on which sailors come home’. ‘Wine-dark sea’ is an epithet used by Homer, ‘οἶνοψ πόντος’ / ‘oînops póntos’, with the literal translation meaning ‘wine-face sea’. It is used twelve times in the Odyssey, and a further five in the Iliad. This use of colour within both Homer and Cave’s writing is definitely more romantic than accurate, however, historian PG Maxwell-Stuart argued that the use of ‘wine’ could attest more to temperament than shade. In the case of Nick Cave, the journey in this song is in part about his battles with sobriety. With Homer’s use of this epithet being for when the seas were black, tempestuous, and unpredictable – we can see how this reflects in the behaviours that are known to come with addiction. The role of who ‘Betty X’ may remain unclear, but another lyric – ‘so much wind blew through her words, I went rolling down the hall’, reflects the ruler Aeolus, gifting Odysseus a westerly wind to guide him home. This reference to the return home, as well as the wine-dark sea hair being a vessel for return, leads me to believe that Betty X is in fact the raven-haired Susie Cave. She is the symbol of home for him, she is the destination after the odyssey, and he sings of her light and how her light is all her own. 

In almost every stanza, we are introduced to a new female figure who adds a different element to Nick Cave’s narrative – the only one unnamed being ‘a black girl with no clothes on’. He sings of her dancing, calls her his ‘Nubian princess’, and unveils that he ‘spent the next seven years between her legs pining for my wife’. My attempt to unpick a real-life identity for this figure, such as with Miss Polly or Betty X, was fruitless. However, my research leads me to believe that she represents something other than a person. Seven years is how long Odysseus spent on Ogygia, the island of Calypso the nymph daughter of Atlas. Throughout those seven years, Calypso seduces Odysseus, even going so far as to offer him immortality in exchange for his hand in marriage. Odysseus rejects this offer, longing for his home and wife, Penelope, but only manages to escape the island when the

Gods intervene. Modern Greek tradition likens Ogygia to be an island nearabouts Greece itself, but the geographer and traveller Strabo argued that the placement of the island is more likely to be in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, placing it below the equator. Perhaps this is why Nick Cave chose for Calypso to be represented by a black woman, since this placement of the island would dictate a dark skin tone for its inhabitants, as well as for Calypso herself. Even with describing her as Nubian, we can read in translations of the text that Homer describes Calypso as weaving upon a loom with a shuttle made from gold, and the very root of the word ‘Nubia’ translates to ‘the land of gold’ in Ancient Egyptian. Why wasn’t Cave’s Calypso granted the humanity of a name? Maybe she is a personification of heroin due to the intoxicating words he attributes to her, and leaving her unnamed reflects the dehumanisation that can be left in its wake; perhaps she is the embodiment of the revelry some can have in the wallows of depression, the sick comfort you can find in the sadness. 

‘More News from Nowhere’ references the idea of the journey, the long and arduous adventure that comes hand in hand with being alive. The song is long, slow, and repetitive. With the chorus comes the slow echoing chant of ‘More News from Nowhere’, reminiscent of a Greek chorus or sailors singing as they row upon the oars of old ships. In recitals of epic poems in Ancient Greece, music would be used to emphasise parts of the story, as well as recurring lamentations. The tune hardly veers from its path, the vocals barely stray from a specific pattern, the steady beat is a simplistic foil to the complex nature of the lyrics. The melody only shifts as Cave sings ‘and it’s getting strange in here, and it gets stranger every year’ / ‘don’t it make you feel alone, don’t it make you want to get right back home’, punctuating the absurdities and emphasising a yearning for stability before returning to the compelling monotony. Jim Sclavunos is on the drums, the anchored heartbeat akin to waves smacking against a bow, with Martyn P. Casey on bass providing a solid foundation for that triumphant earworm of a riff, played by Warren Ellis plucking upon a viola. Nick Cave himself veers away from Homer for the final verse, existentially expressing the futilities of living with ‘everything you do today, tomorrow is obsolete’, before committing one final chant of the song title ‘More News From Nowhere’, taken from the 1890 utopian socialist novel by William Morris – yet another example of Cave as that literary magpie, creating a collage with his words. In spite of it’s existentialist ending, it is a song seemingly designed to keep you moving, to get you from one place to the next. I listen to it as I walk the streets of London, as I look out of train windows, or as my plane takes off into the sky. ‘More News from Nowhere’ is a song made of pure momentum, despairing at the godlike forces beyond our control but still nonetheless pushing forward.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Soul/R&B

Kimberly Davis (CHIC): From Brooklyn to the World

Kimberly Davis, the story of a girl from Brooklyn whose journey through music led her to become the lead singer in the most famous disco band there has ever been: CHIC.

With classics such as ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Everybody Dance’ ready to perform to the world, we got a chance to catch up with Kim before she embarks on CHIC’s UK tour this August.

As Kim joined the Zoom call from sunny New York, I was instantly greeted by a smile and energy as infectious as CHIC’S ‘Good Times’ groove, behind her, an incredible array of shoes covering her apartment walls.

James: Wow that’s a lot of shoes Kim!

Kim: Haha! Oh yes! It’s something of an obsession!

J: Have you decided which ones you’ll be bringing with you on tour?

K: Oh yes! But you’ll have to wait and see!

J: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! It seems like not long ago I was a student interviewing Nile Rodgers for our student TV show, so it’s fantastic to meet one of the other immense talents of CHIC.

Where do I start? You’re just about to go on tour, and over the years you’ve played with some absolute legends of music. I’m interested to know where it all began for you.

K: Well, my mother was musical, she was a singer. My father was a musician so there was always music around the house, whether it was auntie playing disco or grandma playing gospel. I would sit in front of the TV and sing the commercials or the theme songs to shows.

J: Do you remember the point in which you decided: “This is what I wanna do with my life,“?

K: I was always in the church choir and even sang at family reunions. My mom took me to see the movie ‘Fame’ about the NY School of Performing Arts. I remember seeing the students dancing on tables and singing in the hallway, and I thought, “There’s no way I’m not going to that school.” I went for four years and that taught me everything I needed to know.

J: For a lot of young people starting out the way you did, the music industry seems massive. Do you feel as if you’ve always had the confidence to tackle that, or was that something you had to learn also?

K: I had a lot of insecurities when I was younger, especially going from junior high to high school. I said to my music teacher when auditioning for high school, “I don’t know if I want to go because I’m not going to stand out anymore. I’m not gonna be the girl that can sing anymore, I’ll just be part of the crowd.”

K: She just said, “Are you insane?! You’re gonna learn from everyone there… the students, the teachers!” And that’s just what I did. Once I got past that fear of I’m not gonna be the stand-out singer, it was all a learning process. You never want to get too cocky. My last words when speaking to singers are always, “Be fierce, but stay humble.”

I wanted to ask Kim a bit about how she managed to raise her son for 17 years, all whilst working a full-time job and singing on the side. Surely there is no better role model for young musicians trying to make it today.

J: Something I think frightens a lot of young musicians today is this feeling that if they don’t ‘make it’ whilst they’re young, they might ‘miss the boat.’ But of course, you went away from the limelight for 17 years to raise your son before landing the lead role in CHIC.

K: I think everyone is always afraid of that, it’s bad that it’s something society has made us think. But I mean, think of all the actors that didn’t make it until they were in their forties. You’re never supposed to stop pursuing your passion. Your passion is what keeps you alive, it’s what keeps you going, so you can never give up and think, “Oh, I’m past my prime.” Says who?!

J: And surely taking a break from your music career must have come with a lot of life lessons, too?

K: Well, I never stopped singing. I had a full-time job but my hours were from 12 pm – 8 am. I would get up, take care of my son, go to work, sing during the daytime and then back to work again. Every day I was still doing something: an open mic night, a wedding… Now that my kids are grown up, I get to travel and do what I wanna do. Even though you may take a break, you never truly stop.

J: During that time, did you ever anticipate that in a few years time you’d be singing all over the world with one of the biggest bands ever?

K: (laughing) Absolutely not. I was a child when [CHIC] dropped most of their music, so I was singing along to all the classics growing up. Ralph, the band’s drummer and a good friend of mine, called me one day and was like, “What are you doing?” I said, “Dude I’m at work, what do you mean what am I doing?” And so he says, “You need to get down here right now, they’re auditioning.”

K: In the same day, I left work to go to the audition, got the gig and came back to my job to quit at lunch!

J: What was it like the first time rehearsing with Nile and the band? Was there a moment when you realised ‘Holy sh*t, I’m the lead singer in CHIC?

K: Well the guys in the band would tell me all the time, “You raised the bar for what we’re doing.” Initially, Nile wanted to stop doing CHIC. He was so depressed and sick about the band that he just wanted to stop doing it. They all just weren’t happy, so they said to Nile, “You don’t give up playing, you just switch up the band.” And so that’s what he did.

K: He switched up the band and now we’re family for real. We laugh together, we cry together, we live with each other more than our own families. So you know, we are family.

J: Do you think you joining the band installed a lot of confidence in Nile then?

K: Oh yeah, totally. He’s excited about getting back out there, and it’s gotta be a good thing because now we’re coming back out and people have been waiting. You know, this kind of music is infectious. Every gig is like a dance party. There are no dull moments, and that’s what we look forward to. I love the fact that kids 5 years old are singing “We Are Family.” That means someone passed down to them the songs just as my parents did to me.

J: What’s been some of the most memorable gigs for you?

K: The most prominent one I would definitely say is Glastonbury. That was awesome. I remember Barry Gibb playing “Staying Alive” and everyone, even the security, broke out into a flash mob. Dubai was amazing and playing the Sydney Opera House was incredible.

K: Just travelling the continents with Nile is crazy. But I’m just helping him live his best life. When I sing “Get Lucky” he gives me this intro about how he almost died from cancer, and now he feels like the luckiest man alive. So I’m just helping him to relay his story and that’s all I need.

J: So I suppose you must feel like you’ve gotten to Nile pretty well?

K: Oh yes, he calls me his little sister. We did a song together and he didn’t hesitate to play on it. I said to him, “I have this song coming out and I feel like I hear you already on it.” I sent him the stems, he did the song and it went to number one. He’s just the best boss really.

J: Is there any advice you’ve always kept or maybe told your son in pursuing his own dreams? Is there anything you would say to your young self as a girl in Brooklyn?

K: It’s basically just: do not give up your passion. That’s just the bottom line. If you give up your passion, you literally die on the inside. If you’re someone that likes drawing and you can’t find a pencil or paper and that stops you, it’s not your real passion. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you should never stop. And again, be humble, that’s how you keep getting your blessings.

J: And in fact you started your own singing academy this year, why was that so important to you?

K: I’ve been trying to do it for so long, people have been asking me to give them lessons ever since I hosted open mic nights. I’ve never had a chance to do it, but this whole pandemic has given me the time to do that. I’m teaching these young people because I love it! Zoom is such a beautiful thing because it means I have students from all over the world.

J: It’s always a tricky decision for a lot of young people pursuing music. Whether or not ‘music school’ is the right thing for them, or whether it actually makes a difference at all.

K: Absolutely, I suppose the difference is that I don’t give out degrees, but I can help people at a more personal level. If there’s a student who has trouble hitting low notes, I can show them exercises that will help them. I can also put a student in front of people with a real status in the music industry or get them to open up for us.

J: That sounds incredible, and we’ll be keeping our ears close to the talent that you work with. Thanks so much for talking with us, and hopefully we’ll catch you when you come to London!

K: Absolutely, thanks hon!

If you’re in the UK, be sure to catch CHIC on their UK tour through August and September, and for singers searching for the perfect mentor, check out Kimberly’s Academy here.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Richard Hawley

A former member of era-defining bands Longpigs and Pulp, is it any surprise that the solo work of guitar hero Richard Hawley would be any less than pure magic? But don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself the reasons why Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and Paul Weller are lifelong fans of his music too.

A young boy from Sheffield with a guitar on his back and a dream to become the next Elvis Presley ends up shaping music forever. Richard Hawley has surely woven his genius throughout not only the songs of various legendary bands but even more so through his work as a standalone artist. Moving on from his days as a Britpop legend, Richard Hawley’s later work takes on a very different turn. His songs have found a beautifully touching power all of their own. With tracks full of feeling and wonder, love and heartbreak, listen as Richard Hawley takes you away to another world in a way you never before thought possible.

Richard Hawley is very much the Johnny Marr of lush, orchestrated ballads. To be able to craft so many human emotions into his songs truly makes you feel part of something big and wonderful. I’d go so far as to say Richard Hawley is the Johnny Cash of his generation.

His debut album Coles Corner, our favourite of his many spectacular records, is pure bliss from start to finish.

Any die-hard fans of the Arctic Monkeys out there may remember the band’s side project/alias name, ‘The Death Ramps’, who invited Hawley to record with them in 2012, releasing their collaborative song ‘You and I’ as a B-side to the single Black Treacle the same year.

Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, makes no secret of his admiration for Richard Hawley’s music for very good reason.

To play us out, Richard Hawley’s early song ‘Valentine’ from his Mercury prize nominated album Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Press play, lie back and be transported.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B

Premiere: FAZE – Carried Away

Offering up a standout blend of Funk, Soul and Jazz with even more elements thrown into that mix, FAZE are a band proving they aim to sound like no one else with the release of their debut single ‘Carried Away’. A truly unmissable playing style along with some fantastic vocals, these young but extremely talented musicians wouldn’t seem out of place performing alongside some of the outstanding artists who first inspired them.

To find out a bit more, we caught up with the 5-piece neo-funk band from London just after the release of their new single. Be sure to expect many great things from this group, there’s no shame being Carried Away when it comes to FAZE.

J: Here with me to talk a bit about their new single is FAZE’s very own Yazmine, Ryan and Indigo. Hey, guys! How’s lockdown 2 been for you so far?

Yazmine: Hey, James! Lockdown 2 has been less of a nuisance than Lockdown 1 so far. I’m still at work, so not much has changed for me! A pain we can’t rehearse or record properly, but we’re hoping to be free December 2nd!

Ryan: Lockdown 2 has been a period of adjustability for me to be honest! Being under lockdown is not ideal but being able to adjust to circumstances is key.

Indigo: It’s been painful, just as musicians were starting to get gigs again! Luckily, we’ve still got a couple of function gigs lined up in 2021.

J: So for those only just finding out about you, tell us a bit about the music you’ve set out to create.

Yazmine: We write wacky, funk tunes with elements from 70s disco, neo-soul and classic rock. Expect rhythmic keys, groovy bass, sharp beats, lavish solos and cheeky lyrics! Everyone so far has had a different interpretation, so we’re calling it ‘neo-funk’!

J: Have most of you been in bands in the past, or is your first experience writing with other musicians?

Yazmine: Yes, we’re all pretty experienced musicians. I’ve been in jazz bands, orchestras and rock bands during my time at school and college! I also write solo stuff but FAZE is obviously my favourite 😉

Ryan: I have worked with quite a few bands in the past – my main role is behind the kit though!

Indigo: Yep, I started with youth jazz bands, and I’m now playing with many bands of many genres, including neo-soul, blues and big band jazz.

J: A big question; Why do you all enjoy playing ‘neo-funk’? What was it that inspired you so much that you just had to form a band?

Johnny: Neo-funk is something fresh and exciting. It’s not a well-known genre yet, but we’re setting out to change that!

Ryan: Neo-funk is a fusion of some of my favourite genres which also allows room for a lot of creativity – especially from a drumming perspective. When the opportunity came around to join FAZE, I was excited to get on board.

Yazmine: I got inspired to form a band whilst I was at college, I wanted to get into function work and started a band with some of my mates at school. We all got pretty busy, and the function work fell through so I thought ‘Screw it! Let’s meet some new people’. I downloaded this app Vampr which is basically Tinder for musicians, I met Ryan first, he had some crazy drumming riffs on his page and lived nearby, so we set up a rehearsal, and the rest is history- haha!

J: How would you all describe your music taste, was it tricky finding people who wanted to write in the same sort of style?

Yazmine: I think we’re all heavily influenced by R&B, Gospel, Jazz, Funkadelic and Disco tunes – it was very lucky that we all connected so quickly and had that in common. I grew up listening to CHIC, Parliament, Jackson 5, Erykah Badu and D’Angelo, and I love them all so much. When you’ve heard so much fantastic music, I think you become like a sponge and just soak it all in! The tunes just came bursting out when we started jamming together.

J: So tell me, how does a band even go about recording and releasing their first single in lockdown? Has it been harder/easier?

Ryan: It isn’t the most straightforward process, but we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of doing things. It would ideally be a lot easier without restrictions!

Yazmine: We were lucky that Carried Away has been waiting in the wings for a while before we decided to release. We had to finish up mixing and mastering which could be done remotely by our friend CHRIS XYLO (he’s an absolute wizard!) Planning the single release has actually been easier since I’ve had more time to stay at home and work on it. Since more people are at home, I think we’ve all had time to listen to more music/ read more books/ discover more art, so we’re grateful for that!

Johnny: We’ve successfully recorded three lockdown sessions during this weird time which you can find on our YouTube channel, that process was interesting and was easier than expected thanks to Ryan’s spotless drumming. We’re saving our new tracks for recording after Lockdown so we can get them perfect, we are certainly perfectionists!

J: Tell us all about your new single ‘Carried Away,’ why did you decide to start writing your own tunes and what gave you the idea for this track?

Timmy: After a couple of months playing covers and function gigs, I think we quickly discovered that we could write. During rehearsals in-between songs I’d often play these soulful chord progressions off the top of my head, and we’d go off on this wild jam tangent with loads of improv, different feels etc.! We were all feeling the vibes, so I think it was that first original jam was when FAZE started.

Yazmine: I wrote this track after coming home on the train one night after a fantastic gig. The crowd was wild, and we all went out afterwards and had such a great night. I pulled a bit of an all-nighter that night and woke up the next afternoon exhausted but filled with such excitement. That high you get after you come off stage is exceptional, and the feeling lasts for days afterwards! The lyrics just started coming out, and I sat at my piano and wrote the first draft. I put it to the boys a couple of weeks later, and they brought the vision to life!

J: So this new song is all about ‘life as a musician’ and the highs and lows that come with the job – is that something you’ve all felt an especially relevant subject at the moment?

Yazmine: We know none of us can hardly get carried away with anything at the moment! For us, it’s about fantasy and hope as well as reality. We want listeners to be able to listen to our track and escape from the current world at the moment as well as get inspired for the future. Soon it’ll be all of our jobs to get out there and support live music again. We ain’t going nowhere!

J: What sort of things can we expect to see next from you guys? Any hints?

Johnny: Trust me when I say Carried Away is only the tip of the iceberg! We’ve got so much music written – about to record our next two singles. Our next track will be called MALIBU – think palm trees, indulgent groove and holiday fantasy! Whilst sitting on our sofas at home in the middle of winter, we can only dream – so why not!

You can keep up to date with all the upcoming music from FAZE on their Instagram and Facebook @fazebandofficial

Find FAZE on Spotify here.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Alexandra Savior

Gifted with a velvet voice that will make you swoon, lyricism to rival great literature and a ‘Mystery Girl’ aura that helplessly lures you in, Alexandra Savior is an enigmatic force to be reckoned with.

Not only a talented creative musically, she utilises her artistic capabilities to the full, bringing a personal touch to all elements of her work. Each of her aesthetic music videos that perfectly accompany her chilling tracks is self-directed and she even designs her own album covers and merchandise. Overall, she creates a coherent experience and is certainly proving that she really is a ‘Savior’ to modern female rock.

Born and raised in Portland Oregon as Alexandra Savior McDermott the 25-year-old immediately showed musical promise and received her first wave of attention at the age of just 17 when Courtney Love proclaimed “This girl is gonna be huge!”. Love clearly wasn’t the only one who thought highly of her as the following year a bidding war between labels started; with Columbia Records eventually snapping her up. Upon the deal, Savior moved out to Los Angeles and although she admits that she didn’t feel fully prepared at the time she evidently came into her own as this doesn’t show in her precise work produced out there. 

This flourishing development was partly thanks to Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner because fortunately, rather than someone pushing her in the direction of ‘Katy Perry’ like many labels intended she had the modern-day rock icon around to keep her on the right track. A huge supporter from the get-go, Turner first suggested she drop her last name and go by her middle instead, doubling the impact after initially giving the stage name Alexandra Semitone a shot.

In addition to helping her settle on a pseudonym, he also brought his well-known wit and wordplay to the table as a co-writer, as well as joining forces with his frequent collaborator James Ford to produce Savior’s debut record ‘Belladonna of Sadness’. Make no mistake though; this isn’t Alexandra Turner. Savior is one hundred per cent her own artist and had Alex collaborated with anyone other than the rising star an album couldn’t possibly come close.

Dark and brooding, Savior’s first LP was released in 2018 and chills you to your ‘Bones’ with rich, murderous tones but also has a ‘Girlie’ touch from its sweeter melodic notes. Thanks to elements such as her stand-out smokey voice; even backed with faint screams and wicked laughs on tracks like M.T.M.E to spooky organs, thudding drum beats and shredding guitars she creates an eerie cinematic aesthetic reminiscent of glamorous old Hollywood with a desert twist.

Influences she cites seep their way into tracks, with a prominent example being the late great Amy Winehouse whose characteristics are not only present in the soul Savior sings with but also her strong stance and powerful attitude on songs like Shades, as well as Jack White whose essence is felt in the American ‘Rock n Roll’ grit of the bluesy instrumentals. She also takes inspiration from outside the realm of music with comedy legend and filmmaker Terry Gilliam being a creative influence that not only reveals itself in her artsy music videos but also in the lyrical magic delivered by her haunting vocals.

Proving that she can paint a picture in more ways than one, vivid imagery is evoked in all songs with lyrics like ‘Dress me like the front of a casino, push me down another rabbit hole, touch me like I’m gonna turn to gold’ standing out in opening track Mirage. Alongside Turner, she projected her own feelings onto stories and characters, displayed beautifully in Girlie; the analysis of females trying to make it in the industry featuring lines like ‘Until her eyeballs start to bleed, she don’t wanna go to sleep’ and in Mystery Girl’s tale of infidelity singing ‘Hush now, don’t explain. Wound up with a heavier heart, from waiting in the rain’.

Belladonna of Sadness truly provides listeners with a whole world. Even songs that didn’t make the cut such as ‘Miracle Aligner’ now best known for being recorded by Turner and Miles Kane as The Last Shadow Puppets are packed with a punch but the perfect tracks were chosen; all piecing together to create a dark dream that you’ll never want to awaken from. 

At the beginning of this year, Savior followed up ‘Belladonna’ with the release of sophomore album ‘The Archer’ and although she found such a distinctive style with her first album, it was exciting to hear that she didn’t play it safe and stick to the same recipe (despite it being devoured by many). Instead, she delivers a heart-break fantasy that hypnotises you into floating along on her fresh journey, with the darker side only creeping in rather than being at the forefront.

An even more personal endeavour that her first, Savior was truly left to her own devices for this record after being dropped from Columbia, her manager quitting and receiving no aid from Alex Turner. None of this held her back though and only resulted in an album that’s soaked in assertive independence and is every bit her own.

Opening with a melancholic piano solo and heartfelt words she embraces the title of the track ‘Soft Currents’ throughout, delivering more vulnerable emotion in songs like this and The Archer. As a whole, it feels more of a woozy, gentle daydream in comparison to the dangerous vibes radiated previously but as mentioned, the darkness lurks. Harkening back to the ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ days are the thick riffs and thumping rhythm of Saving Grace and the suave single Howl with its strong synth and delivery. In addition to this, she further boasts her range by delivering a tune made for the likes of Mad Men with Send Her Back featuring a wonderful big brass intro and even takes you to the seaside with the beach swept Can’t Help Myself.

Although the overall direction is a departure, the key elements that make a Savior track remain. She doesn’t disappoint on effortlessly cool sounds, oozing vocals and of course those lyrics such as ‘The wilted edge of a lonesome mattress, I lay my head there until the feeling passes. It’s sinking in just as time relapses’ that I ‘Can’t Help Myself’ from quoting.

Although she might seem like an impossible ‘Mirage’, Alexandra Savior is as real as ever. So, if you’re looking for some dreamy desert rock, the perfect revenge soundtrack or spooky psychedelic pop then she really is the ‘Saving Grace’ that you’re looking for.

Listen to Alexandra Savior on Spotify now.

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Orgone

‘Orgone’ is a term best described as an esoteric energy or universal life force but more importantly, it’s an incredibly well-fitting name for this musical time machine of a band, that’s continually bringing a magnetic power to groove and soul…

I was genuinely taken aback at how well the West Coast collective capture the sound of classic 60s/70s funk, perfectly delivering an essence that I was searching for more of- specifically from current artists. Their time travelling isn’t just to the heyday of funk though, upon further listening, so many more influences surfaced from New Orleans jazz to modern hip-hop. Perfectly melted together, their sound has resulted in comparisons to not only legends such as Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire but also 21st-century stars like Childish Gambino.

I already recognised a few of their biggest hits (as you might too) but since properly discovering the band I’ve had their tunes playing non-stop. Blending from one to another as seamlessly as their styles are combined, I often find myself in a trance when listening to their mixing pot of sounds. Sometimes it feels like only a fleeting moment has gone by before I’ve made it through an album; always leaving me ready and raring to start the journey all over again. Their bold, flowing mixes and ability to take you to another time and place go to show that it’s not just me in need of their sound in my life as they’re guaranteed to satisfy any musical void that you’re looking to fill or just breath some new life to your playlists.

The California bands’ only consistent members since forming in 1999 are founders Dan Hastie on keys and Sergio Rios on guitar and engineering duties. However, the group has now stood at a solid five members for their last five albums, with Dale Jennings on bass, drummer Sam Halterman and singer Adryon de León joining Hastie and Rios in 2013 to form a more permanent set up. 

Many of their mesmerising tracks tell a story without a single word being sung but León takes things to the next level-shining brighter than ever on their 2019 album ‘Reasons’ with vocals on every track (We Can Make It is a personal favourite of mine). A variety of additional talents from Fanny Franklin to Jesse Wanger are often brought on board for vocal contributions as well; also helping to take things up a notch and ensure a consistently changing sound.

Always fresh and exciting the band are amazing in the studio where they produce their popping tracks and even work with artists such as ‘Queen of R&B’ Alicia Keys. The excitement doesn’t just stop there though as up on stage they really come into their element. Creating a kind of party atmosphere that would have fuelled Studio 54 back in the late 70s they clearly thrive off of their live audience grooving out to their glorious performances. Whether they’re in front of fans, working with top talents or on their own, there’s always an electrifying vibe in the room, as evident in the clip below-

In late September of this year, the band put out ‘Connection’, their appropriately named tenth record that instantly creates a relationship with its audience and bonds together all of their best elements. Kicking off with The Vice Yard you’re hit with powerful horns, sleek guitar licks and a pounding rhythm section; immediately locking you into the experience. The album goes on to provide a more futuristic vibe with tracks like Love Will See Us Through; evoking the the-sci-fi elements of time travel with electronic experimentation and making it clear to see why people are reminded of albums such as Gambino’s ‘Awaken, my love!’. Other stand out songs include The Truth, featuring a marvellously groovy riff and outstanding display of Kelly Finnigan’s husky voice, This One Time; a sweeping Motown dream and the reggae-infused This Space.

Although ‘Connection’ might be the finest exhibition of their greatest strengths it certainly wouldn’t exist without all efforts that came before, where these elements began to materialise. Whether it was using steel drums or synthesizers, Orgone have been making hits since the early days with their self-titled debut album back in 2001 displaying their ability to genre jump and produce superb songs from the very beginning. Truly breaking ground 6 years later with their full length follow up ‘The Killion Floor’ they’ve continued to create hit after hit and I don’t see them stopping any time soon.

Perfect for a chilled-out groove or conquering the dancefloor I strongly urge you to get listening Orgone anytime or any place and be transported by their universal energy.


Listen to Orgone on Spotify now

Categories
Jazz/Blues New Wave Pop/Indie Pop Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: The Avalanches

It’s rare to find a band who you can say do things truly differently, who create new tracks from chopped up old ones and who utilise comedy throughout their music, but what’s even rarer is finding a band who do that all as superb as The Avalanches – a band who come out with great tune after great tune, even some that are purely hysterical.

The Avalanches have been releasing music since the early 2000s, and their music videos online have drawn in millions of views for their sheer class and creativity.

The Australian electronic music group first became known for their highly creative use of sampling (using snippets of other records), something which was popularised in 80’s hip-hop music.

In recent years, sampling has perhaps been given a bad rep, mainly due to artists blatantly ripping off other songs and claiming it was ‘sampled’ (*cough* Drake *cough* Rizzle Kicks).

Avalanches, on the other hand, have truly brought this type of music back to what it was supposed to be, a band who truly use their brains to create new original songs out of the bits and bobs of other records.

Their debut album Since I Left You is considered by the wider music industry to be one of the best albums of the early 2000s – Robbie Chater, one of the founding members of the band, estimated in an interview with Sound On Sound magazine that the entire album contained around 3,500 samples, all of which were ripped from vinyl records using equipment at Sing Sing Studios in Melbourne.

The Avalanches are truly a band that offers something for everyone. Each of their songs seems almost worlds apart from the next, but each still retains that same playfulness we’ve come to love.

Their ever-changing lineup of multi-instrumentalists has changed frequently throughout the years and ensures their music never sounds the same.

Since the rise of YouTube, their viral music videos have seemed to play a more major role in people finding their music. Their mind-boggling video for ‘Frontier Psychiatrist,’ the band’s second-ever release, was the video that first caught my attention. Robbie Chater’s background as a film student at the time of the band’s formation may have been one of the biggest contributing factors to the creation of their now-famous videos. Since then, the band have won many film awards for their humorous, creative and at times positively bewildering concepts.

We’ve seen many bands ‘get big quick’ by releasing music videos which go viral. Today, for a lot of bands, this seems to be an attractive way to getting yourself noticed (if your video concept is good enough that is). Bands like PSY and OKGO are a prime example of artists whose music you probably wouldn’t have heard if it weren’t for their online presence.

Although The Avalanches videos are just as brilliant, they’ve proven that unlike other bands, people come for the videos but stay for the music.

Since the release of their second album in 2016, which followed a long hiatus since the band’s debut in 2001, we’ve seen them to be incredibly active this year; releasing single after single and collaborating with various artists including Denzel Curry.

The Avalanches have often relied on playing with the sounds of other artists, but this is the first time we’ve seen them extensively collaborate with established acts.

We’re very excited to see what lies in wait for this awesome band and hope that their next album lives up to their previous 18-22 track LP’s. The Avalanches music is quite simply a treat, from their lyrics to their videos, their creative, playful personas shine through in almost every aspect of the band, and we’re glad to have them back!

Categories
Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears

James Brown has been reborn – Black Joe Lewis is quite possibly a music legend out of his time. It’s been a long 16 years from his days as a seafood delivery man and pawnshop employee to the now multi-album success he is today, and that journey hasn’t been easy. In March this year, Lewis and his band ‘The Honeybears’ hit back with their single ‘Five Dollars’ after a 2-year break since their last studio album, The Difference Between Me & You. They bring back with them their immense soul sound and Lewis’ phenomenal voice. It’s made us incredibly excited to hear what other music could be in the works.

Sometimes I find myself listening to a Spotify playlist sent to me, enjoying all the songs that come up one by one, and then a song comes on which just hits differently. A Soul classic which has escaped my radar? No, a song released only this year – Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears.

Their music layers Lewis’ evocative lyrics over fantastic guitar riffs and striking horns which are reminiscent of Charles Bradley’s Menahan Street Band. You wouldn’t be able to tell if these records were recorded today or decades ago, the inspiration of classic artists like James Brown and Howlin’ Wolf are so heavily embedded that the classic sound of old soul records is weaved throughout.

Joe Lewis first picked up a guitar whilst working in a pawn shop in Austin Texas in the early 2000s. After discovering classic blues records and teaching himself to play, he spent years performing at open mic nights, small venues and bars, never making much of a name for himself. It wasn’t until the release of his debut EP Black Joe Lewis and The Cold Breeze, that he had a hit with the truly incredible ‘Bitch, I love you,’ and thereafter, everyone seemed to know who Black Joe Lewis was.

In subsequent years, Lewis toured alongside the band Spoon, the drummer of which, Jim Eno, then produced Lewis’ debut album ‘Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is!’ which quickly alerted the rest of the music industry to his presence.

This peak of success was shortlived however, things soon began to decline for Lewis. A combination of band and management conflicts resulted in a drop in album sales, the loss of festival bookings and a collapse in the band’s name and popularity.

It wasn’t long before Lewis found himself back where he started, having recently released their 2018 album The Difference Between Me & You, it was met with almost no attention, sales or interest.

Along with this, Lewis’s costly recent divorce, his newborn child and an outstanding debt of $50,000 in management fees, Lewis nearly saw an end for his music career. He debated giving up and finding a ‘real job’ in order to pay for all this and to take responsibility for his child.

But as so many of his musical inspirations have found, in hard times, music was the only light at the end of the tunnel and the only way forward.

Now under new management, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears are making a powerful comeback with their smashing new single ‘Five Dollars.’ Bringing back with them their fantastic guitar and horn-driven sound to a track which has seemingly reignited their careers and caused a rush of discovery for their recent album which almost went unnoticed, giving it the attention it was denied at the time of its release. Once again, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears have got our attention, and this time I don’t expect they’ll let that slip away once more.

As soul and blues music once made its way across the Atlantic and ignited a fire across the world, Black Joe Lewis has been inspiring the second revolution of blues, soul and rock and roll.

This is great music, dancing music, and above all, music that makes you feel good, something the world desperately needs right now.

There isn’t a single song of theirs I can say I dislike. Listening to them is like jumping in a time machine and travelling back to the golden age of Funk and Soul, something I wasn’t around to experience but can now fully appreciate. Unlike those past music legends, Black Joe Lewis is still very much a living, breathing man who I’m excited to go and see live once I have the chance to. To all those Soul, Blues and Rock and Roll fans who think music isn’t what it used to be, take a listen to Black Joe Lewis and transport yourself.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybear’s new single ‘Five Dollars’ is available to listen to now, and if the incredible story of his past few years hasn’t inspired you, the feeling in his music will.